Top 3 Tips for Choosing the Best Candidate for the Job

You hold in your hands a list of qualified candidates, all applying for an open position in your company. You’ve done the research (check out our past article, “10 Tips to Improve Your Company’s Recruiting and Hiring”), you’ve put in the work, and all that remains is to make a formal offer.

How do you choose the final candidate? How do you know which candidate will be the best hire when all the finalists have made it through experience screening and interviews?

There isn’t an equation for this decision. We are talking about human resources here – people, who come with a unique set of complexities no test has ever really been able to pin down. What you want to know is the future… which person will fit in best at this company, most help us succeed, most share our vision, be most invested. And while we cannot help you see into the future, we can help you make the best choice possible with the knowledge you have.

These tips have been practiced and acclaimed by some of the country’s top CEOs, and we believe they can help you too.

#1 Know the Person Behind the Candidate

At this point in the hiring process, you likely could have given some sort of numerical score to each candidate. Categories such as education, relevant experience, basic interview skills, quality references, and professional appearance can all be given a grade.

But do you know which of your candidates can resolve interpersonal conflicts with coworkers? Do you know who would be honest in a situation where honesty could cost them?  Do you know which of them would pass up an opportunity for self-promotion to benefit the company as a whole?

Essentially, what do your candidates value most and how do those values line up with those of your company?

No single set of characteristics will satisfy every employer, so identifying your company’s value system and narrowing down what you’d most like to see in your employees will take careful consideration. Some businesses want a team of driven, competitive, willing-to-do-anything employees to ensure their business can thrive in ultra-competitive markets. Other businesses place extreme value on excellent customer service and creating a friendly environment for customers and employees.

Non-numerical data, though hard to uncover and even harder to clearly define, can make all the difference between a happy or unhappy hire. Methods for uncovering this type of candidate data are varied. Some employers swear by a particular personality test, some believe that with a frank and comfortable interview atmosphere, applicants will offer this information freely, and some dig deeply into references and social media sites. Others fondly refer to the “beer test,” in which employers either hypothetically or actually take the final candidates out socially to get a better feel for who they really are.

Ethan Rouen, writing for Fortune, states that you cannot overestimate the power of cultural fit. He cites a study conducted by Dokko, Wilk, and Rothbard, published in 2009 by Organization Science. Rouen writes, “They expected that poor fit would be detrimental in the success of new employees, but in fact, the results were a surprise to researchers: poor cultural fit completely eliminated all the good that came from experience.”

Rouen responds by recommending a variety of techniques to companies looking to emphasize cultural fit, ranging from collaborative interviewing, to job descriptions including explanations of a company’s culture, to in-company referrals. We’ve also heard of companies going undercover, asking drivers and waiters who have recently interacted with candidates how they were treated.

So while we can agree across industries that cultural fit is significant, we must leave room for each specific company to figure out its own unique methodology.

#2 Simulate a Real Work Experience

Some training is necessary for anyone endeavoring to fill a new position, but testing to see what your final candidates would do with a real-life situation if handed it today is a great way to decipher aptitude. Done correctly, this can also give potential employees an idea of what it would be like to work for your company. It’s a win-win.

Again, techniques for carrying out this kind of test are varied.

 

The New York Times published a series of articles in 2013 by Bryan Burkhart, in which he discusses the hiring process utilized at H.Bloom. High employee turnover led H.Bloom’s management to make substantial changes to their process; while the process is not set in stone and continues to adjust to the changing needs of the company, the work they have put in thus far is already reaping rewards.

The final two steps of H.Bloom’s hiring process are a case study and an on-the-job assessment day.

 

Case studies test a candidate’s practical knowledge and problem solving abilities. Explains Burkhart, “Candidates who make our short-list are given case studies that approximate the actual job. We provide an assignment, with all of the necessary background information, and then set up a time for the candidate to come back into the office and present the case to a handful of us who will make the hiring decision. This in-depth evaluation allows us to separate the great candidates from the merely good.”

 

This, paired with a day in the office meeting and working alongside current employees, gives the hiring team at H.Bloom a chance to envision each candidate actually working for their company.

Other companies, seeking the same assurance of quality employees, add into their contracts a mandatory period of probation for new workers. Again, there is no one-size-fits-all plan; implementation strategies must be tailored to suit individual companies.  

#3 Go with Your Gut (or Bring in the Professionals)

A well-thought-out hiring process is meant to cut out unqualified candidates, so if you get to the end of the hiring process and have multiple candidates remaining, there is some assurance accompanying whomever you choose. Get your team together, and make the best decision you can with the group of people you’ve trained to make these calls.

If you are still unsatisfied with your hiring process, consider calling in a professional recruiter. Years of experience seeing this process from start to finish in countless companies prepares them to wisely advise you on how to make decisions that will most benefit your company.

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